NJ Youth Hockey Coach Leads by Example | Youth1

NJ Youth Hockey Coach Leads by Example

Brendon Herr started his coaching career like most coaches do; he was finished playing college hockey (NCAA D3, Lebanon Valley) and the NHL wasn’t calling so Herr turned to coaching.

“I always found myself to be a student of the game. After my playing career ended, I found myself wanting to continue to be around hockey and think the game. Coaching was a natural fit for me.”

Having never coached before he wanted to find his niche. He coached at Lebanon Valley, Scranton Junior Knights, and the New Jersey Rockets, before finding his home with the NJ Colonials. Herr started out by coaching a Bantam A team in his first season. Now, in his third full season with the organization, Brendon is the Tier 2 hockey director, as well as the head coach for the Peewee AA team and the Tier 1 Midget 16 American AAA team.

Coaching both of these teams is taking Brendon all over the country; Michigan Super Series, Princeton Super Series, Aston, Pa., Nashville Rock and Roll Cup and more. Exposure for his club and his players is always on his mind.

“In the summer we sit and think of the best tournaments we can go to and be competitive to gain exposure for our players and our organization. We get to play against a lot of teams that we do not normally see on our schedule. It’s fun to see different styles of hockey being played in different parts of the country.”

On top the tournaments and showcases his teams play in the NJYHL and AYHL respectively. Competition can be fierce in both leagues as the NJYHL and AYHL talent pools are deeper than ever. Close, hard fought games are the norm, and there are not many easy games in those leagues.

“The Ramapo Saints have proven to be our toughest competition in both leagues actually. Anytime you play them, you know it’s going to hard fought game.”

Finding your style of coaching can be especially challenging when you are first starting out. Finding a balance of strict and fair, while getting 20 players to listen and respect you is not always the easiest thing to do.

“I think my favorite NHL coach is Jon Cooper from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is more of a modern day “players coach” and relates well to his players. I try to resemble some of the qualities that he displays in my style of coaching as well. I think today’s players respect coaches more when you talk and explain things on their level”

Just like a player always has to adapt and continue to improve, coaches have to do the same thing. We see it in the NHL all of the time, longer tenured coaches, no matter how good of a coach they are, become tuned out and eventually lose the locker room. To avoid being tuned out by the players you have to keep your practices and your voice fresh, especially at the youth level where attention spans aren’t always the highest.

“Coaching at different levels during the same season can be tricky, each team, each age group demands a different voice. I attend coaching seminars every year. I think as a coach there is always room for improvement and always something you can learn, even at the highest level.”

Developing players at the youth level should be the coach’s number one goal. In the NJ area there are some coaches that have been proven successful at developing players through the years. Noel Rubin, Jim Elia, Adam Diglio, and John Dinorchia all come to mind. All of these coaches have at one point or another coached an NHL player in his youth. While Brendon is still in his coaching infancy he’s already coaching players who are moving on past youth hockey to Prep School, NCAA, Tier 1 Junior and even NHL hockey.

“Development is first and foremost. I think teams and coaches nowadays put too much of an emphasis on winning and building “super teams”. Players need to face adversity and I think players really can grow from that, along with working on individual skills, especially at the younger ages.”

With so many different coaches, camps, organizations, showcases, skills clinics, etc. It’s tough to know as a parent and as a player, what is best for them in the off-season. Burnout is a real thing and happens way too often because parents and players just are not aware of what the best off-season option is at the youth level.

“Players need to get off of their skates in the off-season. As a strength and conditioning coach also, I see it all of the time that players use the off-season to skate even more than during the season. The off-season should be spent playing other sports or acquiring a trainer. You have to let the body rest and recover. You also want to be developed as an all-around athlete so you can catch a puck that’s up in the air or use your feet to corral a puck that’s in your skates. Too many times I see one dimensional players, it works on the local level, not on the national level though.”

Some of the intangibles in hockey are often termed hockey IQ and hockey sense. These are typically not taught, they are developed through the player’s absorption of the game.

“If you can think the game faster 2-3 plays ahead, you are going to be very successful, when it’s time to move to the next level.”

On top of coaching youth hockey seemingly everyday of his life, Brendon also coaches the Chatham Public High School Varsity team. He also enjoys playing golf in the off-season and taking cooking classes with his wife. He’s always a student of the game, as well as a student of higher education. He has a degree in psychology and still enjoys learning how and why people interact they way that they do. A hockey player down to his core, his favorite hockey movie is the hockey classic, “Slapshot”.

“Coaching is a passion of mine and it will hopefully always be in my life, but it’s nice to take some time to enjoy other hobbies as well.”

Youth1 wishes Brendon he best of luck this season as he moves towards the playoffs through the dog days of the hockey season! If you’d like to check Brendon and his coaching out on social media you can follow his twitter @BHhockeyllc or instagram @BHhockeyllc

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